28 July 2008 | Movie_Muse_Reviews
Apatow's group's "stoner action comedy" hybrid is fun, but not their best
You can check off "stoner comedy" and "action/crime spoof" on Judd Apatow's list of concepts for comedies. "Pineapple Express" basically takes the very best of stoner comedy (a genre that has a small but faithful following) and mixes it with clever, over-the-top action and violence.
It's basically another notch on the idea belt for Apatow Productions who have hit very few bumps on the way to comedy fame and fortune since 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin. "The result is a lot of fun, ridiculous, but quality laughs, though without that down-to-earth humanity that made Apatow's previous hits lovable and have a broad appeal. This one is strictly about being funny and while it definitely is, it's not up to par with earlier films like "Virgin," "Knocked Up" or "Superbad."
I was privileged enough to attend an advanced screening in Chicago and was delighted to get an early glance at how this one compared to previous Apatow films. The raw, improvised, awkward humor that is the group's trademark was definitely there, but I have to admit it was stale at first. Seth Rogen, who plays a pot-loving mid-20s process server (tells people they're sued) named Dale has sat too long in the lovable loser protagonist chair. He's not a whole lot different than his "Knocked Up" role. He's too funny to do that and it's time he experiment or go back to a supporting role like in "Virgin." Truthfully, this film could not survive relying on the same style dialogue as previous Apatow movies alone and gladly it doesn't.
One reason is because the other stars have not had too much Apatow exposure. James Franco as the dealer Saul is a much welcomed change of pace. He's not a show-stealer, but he's the more interesting and likable of the two main roles. His character is naive and funny in a more subtle way. In his first major comedic role, I have to say I was very pleased with the results.
In general, the relationship dynamic of a pot smoker and his dealer is not as compelling and real as let's say two best high school friends like in "Superbad," which was written by the same writers, Rogen and Evan Goldberg. While they recognize this and try to tell the story of Dale and Saul creating a friendship, it doesn't really work. You'd rather Dale and Saul just do stupid stuff and laugh at them than listen to them argue and other pointless subplot friendship stuff.
So what sets this film apart as a comedy instead of it being just okay is the action comedy aspect. The final scene in this film is unbelievably funny and redeeming of any apathy you have toward it, especially if you get what it's doing. It spoofs every typical action film sequence and in terrific stoner fashion. All the film's action is clever and way over-the-top with people over- shooting each other, slamming each other into walls and other things that in real life one would never survive, but these guys do. It's not believable, but it's really funny.
Honorable mentions in the violence regard goes to Danny McBride who plays Red, the guy above Saul on the pot ladder who is sort of a self-proclaimed Chuck Norris figure mixed with a closet homosexual. His humor is right out of the Apatow vein but was definitely fresh. Also Craig Robinson ("The Office") is beginning to get his name out there as a comedian with this bad guy hit-man role. Several other lesser roles are also pretty hysterical. The only characters that didn't work for me were Gary Cole's (as much as he's a good actor, the part is just weak) and Rosie Perez's, who even if they chose her because she's a weird fit, is just a weird fit.
In its truest form, this is a stoner comedy and that's important to know. While Apatow's past films might have been for a diverse crowd, this is definitely not something that older adults with no hippie background will enjoy all that much. It's not as stupid as other stoner films that draw on dumb things like naked women to draw interest (sex is virtually never brought up in this film), but it doesn't shy away from ridiculousness either. If any part of you likes stoner comedy, this film will instantly become your favorite of the genre. If not, you should still find things to like about "Pineapple," but don't come in expecting bigger and better than other Apatow films previously mentioned.